Monthly Archives: August 2008

Then and now

Organics upwardly mobile trend (even at the USDA!)

sky's the limit!

sky's the limit!

Someone has taken the time to compare the new farm bill to the previous farm bill in an easy-to-read-side-by-side table. The sections on organic agriculture are interesting. Read them here.

This is the kind of stuff Extension folks love, for use in presentations. What other use could there be for information such as this?

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Filed under agriculture, organic, policy

Making water

water, water everywhere...

water, water everywhere...

Trick title. Water isn’t made. Like carbon it’s neither destroyed or created, it just changes form and flows via the planetary water cycle. The water you drink today may have been consumed by dinasaurs. Take it for granted if you want, but water issues are emerging as one of the most critical humans will face.

Here are a couple interesting items out today on water as it relates to food…

The first is from Earth Policy Institute. If you think cities are the main problem, consider this…

…, average irrigation water productivity is now roughly 1 kilogram of grain per ton of water used. Since it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce 1 ton of grain, it is not surprising that 70 percent of world water use is devoted to irrigation.

They are touting new low-tech drip systems for very small scale ag production in places like China and India. Read the whole thing here.

The second item is from Dot Earth. It’s something I never thought about — water lost through discarded food. How much could that be?

The amounts of waste are staggering. In the United States, nearly one-third of the food that is produced each year, worth about $48 billion, is discarded. The water it took to grow and process that wasted food amounts to about 10 trillion gallons, according to the analysis. Many European countries have similar losses, proportional to their size.

Guess that doesn’t include the ice left in the cup I throw away after draining the soda.

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Filed under agriculture, environment, food

Blue zones not organic



Ever hear of blue zones? I had not until I ran across this interesting article on How Stuff Works. Blue zones are areas on the Earth where people live longer, healthier lives.

There are four blue zones identified in the world. Champaign isn’t one of them. Dan Buettner of has traveled to the blue zones and his research led him to identify “The Power 9” — nine rules for creating your own blue zone. Here they are…

  1. 80% Rule (stop eating when you’re 80% full)
  2. Plant-Power (more veggies, less protein and processed foods)
  3. Red Wine (consistency and moderation)
  4. Plan de Vida (know your purpose in life)
  5. Beliefs (spiritual or religious participation)
  6. Down Shift (work less, slow down, rest, take vacation)
  7. Move (find ways to move mindlessly, make moving unavoidable)
  8. Belong (create a healthy social network)
  9. Your Tribe (make family a priority)

I was curious about the food in blue zones. I half expected organic food to be mentioned as a factor. It isn’t. Of course, food is important. Three of The Power 9 are food related, but the important factors seem to be how much is eaten (reduce calories for longer life), and what types of food — fresh fruits and veggies, red wine (daily), less meat, less processed foods, etc.

I suppose organically raised food couldn’t hurt, unless a person is so stressed out with finding organic food that they have a stroke.


Filed under agriculture, food

Growing Home gets big attention

Harry Rhodes and the rest of the gang at Growing Home have been quietly plugging along, doing their excellent work, helping people, and they’ve done so without a lot of fanfare over the years. So it was good to see them get some national-level recognition in Frances Moore Lappe’s blog, appearing in a recent Huffington Post.

Frances makes a great point — organic is not just for rich elitists. Growing Home is using a social enterprise, organic farming business to train and support homeless and low-income individuals. They do this at urban farm sites in Chicago and at a rural farm outside of the city. It’s a great model for teaching farm and business skills that reconnect people to their neighborhoods.

What so many people don’t realize is how lousy the food choices are in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods. Most grocery stores moved out of these areas long ago. What you have instead are liquour stores, convenient stores and fast-food restaurants. No farmers markets. No CSAs. No access to fresh produce. This is the beauty of Growing Home — it provides a solution to multiple problems. Job training, homelessness, fresh food availability — we need more Growing Home type organizations. Go to their website and contribute to this very worthwhile effort.

Now let’s build on it. Throw in some other ideas like, The People’s Grocery out of Oakland, CA…

… a community-based organization in West Oakland whose mission is “to develop a self-reliant, socially just and sustainable food system in West Oakland… that foster[s] healthy, equitable and ecological community development.” The organization’s seven bright, energetic mostly part-time staff, along with a host of community volunteers, move this mission forward through a variety of community- and youth-focused social enterprises, urban agricultural projects, educational programs and public policy initiatives.

I’ve got another idea: Picture a fleet of refurbished, refrigerated beer trucks with weekly routes and regular stops in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods. The doors slide open, but instead of beer, fresh fruits and veggies are stacked up and down the side compartments — BAM! instant farmers market. The market trucks are driven and managed by local people, and they sell in their own neighborhoods. Every morning they load up their trucks at a central location and then fan out across the city. People start to learn that the mobile farmers market will be at the corner of X and Y every Tuesday from 10:00-11:00 AM. It’s within walking distance. The produce is fresh and reasonably priced. Jobs are created, small businesses formed, the farmers have another market, people get access to fresh, high-quality food.

What could be better than that?

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Filed under agriculture, food, local food, organic

How will organic weather the storm?

What effect will the slumping economy have on organic food and farming? Are the years of 20% annual growth over? Is organic food is a luxury people won’t afford in tighter times?…

This is a horrendous climate for any company but look at the long-term trends. I’ve repeatedly stated that organic foods, sustainable foods, farmers’ markets, and the like, are not a fad. They have only been growing against a troubling drumbeat of news about food safety and health. There is ever growing awareness about rising obesity, tainted food, and what we’re actually putting down our gullets. This supra-economic food trend is evident in everything from the nutritional information now demanded on New York City menus to the fear of imported food from China. Cheap, we know, has a price, and more than a few of us are unwilling to pay it regardless of our shrinking family budgets.

Read the whole article on ENN.

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Filed under agriculture, food, organic